Video: Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resource, Bernhardt Esau, speaking about the theme of World Oceans Day in Walvis Bay. – Footage: Niël Terblanché
WOMEN working in the predominantly male orientated ocean economy of the world have a lot to contribute towards the future sustainability of the resource and because of that unique characteristic, were celebrated during this year’s World Oceans Day.
In Walvis Bay the day was dedicated to women and their role in the ocean economy through all economic sectors and specifically their contribution through science and how it can be applied to protect marine wildlife by for instance, minimizing water pollution by plastics.
The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernhardt Esau, officiated at the celebration of this year’s event in Walvis Bay and said the health of the ocean is of the utmost importance to ensure the sustainability and future of the ocean economy.
“Women play an essential role in all of this and are already making huge contributions towards the health and sustainability of our ocean and the role the resource plays in the National Economy.”
Esau said with regard to the conserving and protecteing all forms of marine life the various projects launched to ensure minimal impact are starting to show positive results.
“One of these projects is the introduction of special fishing gear used on long line fishing vessels to protect sea bird and especially albatrosses by Birdlife International’s Albatross Task Force (ATF), the Namibian hake fishing sector and the ministry reduced seabird mortalities by 98 percent.”
Minister Esau’s full address reads as follows:
The 8th June 2019, the world celebrates the World Ocean Day. It is a day when we take a moment to reflect on the ocean, and celebrate its presence and role on the earth as we know it today. Please note that I am referring to it as the ocean, and not oceans, as there is only one ocean – from the North Pole to the South Pole – the different seas are undivided and interconnected. The boundaries we ascribe to different oceans and seas are theoretical and political – not real
This year’s theme is ‘Gender and the Ocean’. It is an opportune them considering the need to increase participation of women in ocean activities. Currently, 2% of global seafarers, and 38% of marine scientists are women. For the world to achieve sustainability in the ocean, we must be gender inclusive in all blue economic activities.
Namibia is privileged to have the ocean here with us. Our blue economy, which is centred on the ocean, is key to our national development, food security and poverty eradication. This blue economy includes fisheries, marine mining, maritime transport including our ports of Walvis Bay and Lüderitz, marine and coastal tourism, marine energy, and other yet to be exploited aspects such as marine pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.
We are still learning to understand the ocean. It is a pity that mankind knows more about the surface of the moon, which is quite far away, than the bottom of the ocean. We are however staring to understand that 70% of the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean – which coincidentally is 70% of the total earth surface. The ocean regulates seasons, rainfall, and play a key role in wind movements. In brief, the ocean plays a key role in stabilising the global environment as we know it today.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the ocean is in danger. It is under threat from climate change, pollution and over-fishing. Climate change is causing acidification of the ocean, which is affecting marine habitats and organisms, it is causing dead zones in the sea, where there is no oxygen, and it is increasing sea surface temperatures which in turn are affecting migration patterns of fish and other organisms. Fish that live in cooler temperatures, like some species in Namibia, may gradually migrate toward the poles where the water is cooler. This climate change is mainly driven by greenhouse gas emissions from human activities – which must be addressed. Namibia is a signatory to the Paris Climate Change Agreement – and we join the call to especially major greenhouse gas emitting countries to meet their commitments under the Paris Accord.
In addition, we are witnessing about 13 million tonnes of plastic waste being dumped into the sea annually across the world, and it is estimated that by 2050 there may be more plastics than fish in the sea if we do not address this problem. I am glad to see the cleanup efforts of plastics on our ocean shores which was done by our school children and other members of the public yesterday – this is the way to go, we must all be involved to address this problem.
There is global overfishing in international waters, and also in EEZs of coastal countries, often by Distant Waters Fishing Nations, which provide capacity enhancing subsidies to their fishing fleet, which are harmful to fish stocks globally. Namibia does not provide capacity enhancing fishing subsidies, and we are opposed to them, considering that they distort fair completion among fishing fleets in our EEZs. These harmful subsidies are a major reason why many African countries cannot develop their own domestic fleet – and we therefore call for them to be banned during the current WTO negotiations taking place in Geneva on this matter.
Namibia is part of the global efforts to save the ocean, which includes negotiations on biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), and we are signatories to the Ports States Measures Agreement (PSMA). Namibia is also part of the 14-Nation High Level Panel on Ocean Economy, which includes Norway, Palau, Ghana, Kenya, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Indonesia, Chile, Jamaica, Fiji, Australia and Portugal, which is shaping global debate on the ocean, as the UN prepares for Ocean Conference in Lisbon in 2020, during when important decisions are expected to be taken to address the challenges facing the ocean.
We must all do our bit to ensure the health and sustainability of our ocean. I am happy to note that tory lines, which were introduced through a collaboration between the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, the Fisheries Observer Agency, the Namibian Nature Foundation, Birdlife International’s Albatross Task Force and the Namibian Hake fishery to reduce seabird mortalities resulting from fishing operations has been underway since 2008, and has been 98% successful. I therefore welcome the introduction by the Albatross Task Force of a token certificate to the best seabird friendly vessel every year, which diligently deploys mitigation devices in compliance with regulations. I am told that the award for 2018/2019 fishing season goes to Blomeha fishing vessel. I therefore take this early opportunity to congratulate the management of this vessel for this great achievement.
I would like to thank the organizers and partners who have made this event possible. These include the fishing industry, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Benguela Current Commission (BCC) and the Albatross Task Force supported by the Namibia Nature Foundation. Thank you for your support in facilitating the Namibia Chapter of 2019 World Ocean Day. In particular I would like to thank the learners who gathered on the beach at half past seven yesterday morning to clean the beach of garbage that washed up from the sea.
This is our ocean. Let us sustainably develop its blue economy potential, for the benefit of all Namibians. Let us protect it from pollution, let us all do our part to keep our ocean healthy, for the benefit of present and future generations of Namibians.
*The United Nations General Assembly on December 5, 2008 proclaimed June 8 as World Oceans Day after an Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, when the idea of such a day dedicated to the celebration of the oceans emerged. It was meant to sensitize the general public to the crucial role they play in our livelihood, as well as the different ways to protect them.